Our cars: what the Auto Express team drives

We drive the latest cars for a living, but what motors do we have sitting at home?

Here at Auto Express we spend most of our day guiding people on which cars to spend their hard earned money on, but what do the so-called ‘experts’ drive? 

Best new cars for 2020

Some of the cars listed below were bought with an eye on appreciating values whereas others are workhorses, providing reliable transport for their caring owners. 

Our list of cars is as diverse as the vehicles we test and it’s this variety of taste that makes us Britain’s best automotive magazine. From city cars to sports cars, scroll down below to check out the motors that we drive...

MG ZT+160

Year: 2001Owned: Two monthsOwner: James Batchelor, Editor-at-large, Auto Express

I can remember it very clearly: tuning into Top Gear on BBC2 way back in 2001, to see Tiff Needell hurling a Trophy Yellow MG ZR, a Trophy Blue ZS and a Solar Red ZT around Pembrey circuit. It was the lurid red ZT that left a lasting impression, and the 12-year-old me knew I just had to have one. 

Roll on 18 years and I’ve bought one – only a few months ago. With just 64,000 miles on the clock, a full service history and all the original dealer plates and stickers, it’s a peach. It isn’t fast – the lusty 2.5-litre V6 only pushes out 158bhp – but that’s not important. It’s rare too; when did you last see one?

Honda Integra Type R

Year: 2000Owned: 18 monthsOwner: Sam Naylor, Senior reviewer, Auto Express

It might be surprising to hear that my very own Honda Integra Type R is among the best cars I’ve ever driven. I would choose to go for a drive in it over any modern supercar I’ve tried, because it combines all the most important aspects of what I love about driving. 

The engine is an all-time great, with its 9,000rpm red line and instant throttle response, the manual gearbox is the sweetest I’ve ever used, and the driving position is perfect, too. Finally, the chassis is sublime, outshining many modern front-wheel-drive performance cars, because it’s adjustable and exciting, even on the road.

Renault Clio RS 197

Year: 2007Owned: Two yearsOwner: Alastair Crooks, Content editor, Auto Express

Volkswagen invented the hot hatch with the original Golf GTI, but I would argue that Renault became the masters of the genre in the decades that followed. 

In the two years I’ve owned my Clio 197 it’s gone from bone stock to heavily modified. But that’s not to say it isn’t a fantastic car out of the box. It’s no secret that Renault nailed the 197’s chassis; you can have yobbish oversteer or masses of grip depending on your mood. The gearshift is direct, and the 2.0-litre engine sings beyond 5,000rpm. But, sadly, it’s the kind of engine that is dying out thanks to turbocharging. The Clio 197 felt like it marked the end of an era, so I just had to have one.

Peugeot 205 XS

Year: 1989Owned: 18 monthsOwner: Alex Ingram, Staff writer, Auto Express

Missed the boat on spiralling Peugeot 205 GTI values? Not to worry – having owned both a 1.9 GTI and its baby brother, the XS, I’m not ashamed to admit that I think the lesser-known model is a much more affordable alternative that doesn’t sacrifice fun. 

Weighing just 820kg, the XS feels sharp and compact on the road, the manual gearbox is one of the sweetest in a front-wheel-drive car, and it’s attached to a 1.4-litre engine that loves to be thrashed. It’s huge fun at safe and legal speeds; that it’s reliable (really!) and cheap to run means that it perfectly fits the modern classic bill.

Mazda MX-5 Mk3 

Year: 2008Owned: Three yearsOwner: Joe Holding, Senior staff writer, DrivingElectric

The Mazda MX-5 turns 30 this year, having passed a million sales in 2016. I adore my 2.0-litre Mk3; the latest version is 100kg lighter and a bit more powerful, but I reckon mine can match it for sense of occasion. 

The gear lever on my five-speed ’box is a joy to use and there’s substance to the steering, too. Mazda’s philosophy is ‘Jinba Ittai’: harmony between car and driver. This third-generation MX-5 nails it.

Audi A2

Year: 2001Owned: 18 monthsOwner: Steve Fowler, Editor-in-chief, Auto Express

I’ve always been a big fan of the little Audi A2 – as much for its minimalist design as the clever engineering that lay behind it. So when I was finally allowed to treat myself to something special, the A2 was top of the list. 

As I would always recommend someone buying a modern classic does, I enlisted the help of an owners’ club. The A2 Owners’ Club is superb and I bought my loaded (panoramic roof, leather, BOSE audio and parking sensors) A2 from a lovely chap in Manchester. It really is the epitome of little luxury – yet it’s still hugely efficient and beautiful. The only trouble is, my 19-year-old son has recently taken a liking to it.

Mercedes SL R129

Year: 1992Owned: Two yearsOwner: Vicky Parrott, Associate editor, DrivingElectric 

I bought my Mercedes spontaneously. I couldn’t really afford it and I had no garage to keep it in, but I couldn’t say no. Sure, the lacquer is peeling off in places, the headlining is held up by the sunvisors, the driver’s seat bolster looks like it’s been clawed and it doesn’t have rear seats. But it’s a model I’ve always loved and it’s ageing brilliantly. 

Plus it was mechanically rock solid, had only 60,000 miles and I got it for just £4,000 back in 2017. Since then it hasn’t missed a beat. Slipping behind the wheel brings an instant holiday mood. That’s why it’s one of the best modern classics, and why I plan to keep it forever. 

Ford Ka

Year: 2003Owned: Two yearsOwner: Tom Barnard, Special Contributor

Back in 1998, Auto Express ran a Ka on its test fleet, and it was simply brilliant. Even if we had been in supercars all day, it never felt like a hardship to be handed the Ka keys. 

So when I had a space in my garage, I started looking for one. But I quickly discovered they are almost all rotten. Then I eventually found this rust-free base model with 9,000 miles on the clock. I snapped it up, drowned it in proofing wax and will keep it for future generations.

BMW 130i

Year: 2006Owned: Four yearsOwner: Chris Lloyd, Editor, Buyacar

Smooth six-cylinder engines and rear-wheel drive are BMW trademarks, but neither is available in the latest 1 Series, making it no different from any other hatch. 

My BMW 130i, however, packs a 3.0-litre, six-cylinder engine, rear-wheel drive and weighty hydraulic steering. Old enough to be light and engaging to drive, but new enough to have Bluetooth connectivity and xenon headlights, the 130i ticks modern and classic boxes.

Modern classics

Modern classics header

• MINI Cooper vs Volkswagen Beetle• MGF vs Mazda MX-5• Land Rover Defender vs Jeep Wrangler• Best British classic cars you can afford• Best Italian classic cars you can afford• Best French classic cars you can afford• Best German classic cars you can afford• Best Japanese classic cars you can afford• What the Auto Express team drives


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